Smith, Randy. “Writer, Reader, Student: Into the Maw of the Monster”
In the fall of 1991, I entered my second year as a master’s candidate in English at the University of South Carolina and enrolled in James Dickey’s “Seminar in Verse Composition: Part One” (ENGL 600). At the time, fresh out of banking and new to the field of English, I was not sure that I knew what Dickey looked like or even that I had seen him on campus, but his reputation (and a few apocryphal stories) preceded my laying eyes on him. So, with some mixture of fear, awe, excitement, and curiosity, I arrived early with other students at room 312 of the Humanities Classroom Building on the first day of class that August and waited for Dickey. In my memory, we waited and waited and waited for Dickey to arrive—tension and anticipation building—but I am not sure that this really happened. I am, however, sure about the next part. One moment, students chatted and laughed casually; the doorway to the room was empty—the next, a large (and in my memory, larger-than-life) camouflaged man filled the door and hobbled into the room carrying two huge canvas suitcases. At this point, student chatter ceased.